A week’s worth of investigations already reveals many sides to Grant’s allegations
By Lyssa Myska Allen
News of former NASCAR official Mauricia Grant’s $225 million dollar lawsuit against NASCAR for alleged racial and sexual discrimination broke on June 11. Grant is a 32-year-old African American female who would have been a poster child for NASCAR’s diversity initiatives. Instead, she allegedly turned into a scarlet letter for NASCAR’s good-ole-boys-club.
Grant’s allegations, in a lawsuit filed June 10 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, include 23 specific incidents of alleged sexual harassment and 34 specific incidents of alleged racial and gender discrimination beginning when she was hired in January 2005 through her October 2007 firing. She was fired for poor work performance, a dismissal she alleges was in retaliation for her complaints of harassment.
Grant worked as a technical inspector responsible for certifying cars in NASCAR’s second-tier Nationwide Series. Her suit names Nationwide Series director Joe Balash, assistant series director Mike Dolan, two supervisors, NASCAR’s senior manager for business relations, the human resources director, and 17 officials (Grant’s coworkers).
The 43-page lawsuit lists as offenses: graphic and lewd jokes or comments by coworkers, inappropriate nicknames, including “Nappy Headed Mo” (after radio personality Don Imus’ infamous reference) and “Queen Sheba,” the numerous occasions she was told she worked on “colored people time,” and routine references to the Ku Klux Klan. Perhaps the worst allegation, and the one that will be most damaging to NASCAR if it proves to be true, is that two male coworkers exposed themselves to her.
While analysts across the country reacted to the announcement of the lawsuit, NASCAR began conducting its own internal investigation. Notoriously tight-lipped chairman and CEO of NASCAR Brian France spoke briefly on June 11 about the case, claiming that Grant did not follow any of the clear-cut procedures in place for filing complaints.
On June 14, NASCAR announced that the two officials accused of exposing themselves to Grant, Tim Knox and Bud Moore, had been placed on paid administrative leave. The two were found to have possibly engaged in behavior that violated NASCAR policy. “Obviously we found some violations of our policy, but I would not jump to conclusions to assume that all of the allegations that were made are accurate,” France said.
France further elaborated in defense of his company: “The most disappointing thing to me is that we found out about these alleged claims after you did in the media via a national lawsuit that seeks a lot of money,” France said. “That’s very disappointing because if any of those claims turn out to be accurate and have substance, we would have liked to have known about that two years ago so that we could have reacted and done something about it.”
NASCAR and France also have to contend with testimony from former official Mike Wilford, who is named in the suit. Wilford gave The Associated Press an interview in which he substantiated two of Grant’s charges, suggesting that Grant had no problem with the behavior: “Graphic and lewd jokes? She participated in them. She laughed. She would never say it was inappropriate.” He also admitted showing Grant some loose diamonds and rubies and suggested she should be his mistress in exchange for them, though he maintains this was in response to her joking about her desire to be a “kept woman.”